Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Read-along of Romans, Chapter 10: The Challenge of Self-creation


Have you ever known a person who is "self-made?" I have known many who are motivated, inspired, focused and possessing of serious talent for life. I have known many who have found particular success in their given fields of expertise. I have known many whose life skills and technical prowess allow them to fashion a life that is virtually "hand made" in its entirety.

And yet, and I pause and reflect on our progress so far in Paul's letter to the Romans, I find myself doubting that I have ever met someone who is truly "self-made." Why? Because the virtues I note above, and the many I have not, while lending to success they don't just arise because a person wills them into being in their personal journey through life. We learn from our parents, our teachers, our mentors. We model ourselves after people for whom we possess respect and admiration. We reach out to the skilled, to the knowledgeable, to the wise...and to those who in their generation were inspired by others who had gone on before them. As I think about it, I might have a hand in the crafting of my life, usually by recovering from my own bad choices, but I can say that the idea of being self-made, or self-created is at least a myth, for the most part a conceit and in the extreme (I daresay) a sin.

Paul is emerging from his labors in Chapter 10, having worked hard to open the doors of admission to God's grace-filled fellowship in Christ Jesus to Jew and Gentile, to slave and free...to one and all. Even overcoming the struggles he has faced as a scion of the Pharisaic tradition, he has shown that the Law itself bows to the supremacy of new life offered to all (and not just to Israel) in the saving person of the Messiah. In Jesus, the Law, the Promise, and the purpose of God loving Creation itself into being is fulfilled.

But please don't get it into your head that anyone can corner the market on grace, or sanctification. The Truth that enters into us when we enter into Christ is near...."on your lips and in your heart." The making of a new life in Christ is not achieved by any effort on our part, by any purity that we can by will attain to, or by and act of will on our or any other person's part.

To God be the glory, as well as the credit. We are created as God's children by God's good will...and attain to grace by God's desire for us. We know Christ in each other because that sliver of the divine image is there to be recognized by God's grace. Self-creation, and by extension the assumption that one is better than another by some favor attained apart from God's will is heresy. Our task is to realize that God is LOVING this world into being ALL THE TIME. On top of that, EVERY blessing that we enjoy is attributable to that same glory...and according to Paul is intended as an instrument that will extend that witness through time and space until not one corner of creation itself is apart from a knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus.

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